Developer gambles on great location
The City Council is looking to sell a building destroyed by fire on Union Street to Jeff Buell of Sequence Development, who rehabilitated the historic Foster Building on State Street. Buell bid $10,000 on the building at 708 Union St. and plans to invest between $250,000 and $300,000 to convert it into a five-unit apartment building, according to Jackie Mancini, the city’s director of development.
In executive session during a committee meeting on Monday, the council agreed to vote on Buell’s bid to purchase the property at its next meeting on Monday, Mancini said. Buell said the building needs a lot of work, including a new roof, but that he was drawn to the location on lower Union Street. “It’s a bit of a gamble for sure, but real estate is all about location,” he said. “I love that couple of blocks of Union Street. It’s fun to walk around and it has a good vibe around it. It’s great and it’s so centrally located to a bunch of stuff. It has charm.”
Buell said he is looking to rehab the building within six to eight months. It will include four one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom. Rent will range from $800 to $1,200 a month, he said. He said work will start in the summer and that he’s looking to fix the facade and uncover what’s underneath. “It needed a massive cleanup because there was stuff from the fire that was just there,” he said. “The bones of it seem to be pretty cool. The facade has some potential. I think it will be a cool project when we’re done.” Buell said he plans to seek historic tax credits for the work on the building. Three bids were presented to the council. There were four in total, Mancini said.
Prabhdeep Singh bid $15,000 and planned to invest between $150,000 and $200,000 for six apartment units. Van Dusen Investment Properties also bid $15,000 and was planning to invest $150,000. Singh does not own other properties in the city, Mancini said. She said the council rejected his offer because they don’t have any knowledge of his work. Van Dusen of Rexford proposed a one-year timetable to renovate the building, Mancini said. They have an option to purchase the building next door at 706 Union St. “We don’t have any knowledge of who they are,” Mancini said. “There is no potential for the buildings to be adjoined in the future.” Mancini said the council ultimately agreed on Buell’s bid because of his work and experience with other historic properties.
The three-story building was last owned by Nina Crisafulli, according to property records. It was assessed at $37,944 in 2015. A candle lit by a first-floor tenant caused the fire at 708 Union St. in February 2012. The fire spread upstairs and to the neighboring 706 Union St. All of the tenants escaped the blaze unharmed. Buell renovated the old Hotel Foster, which was built in 1907, with 10 apartment units and retail space on the ground floor occupied by the recently opened Capoccia Wine Lounge by Capoccia Vineyards & Winery in Niskayuna.
Buell is also rehabilitating three other buildings nearby with 23 apartment units. The council also recently approved the sale of 508 Union St. to Schenectady businessman Tony Ward. He purchased the 4,000-square-foot building for $50,000 and plans to invest $400,000 to build two upscale apartment units on the second floor and office space on the first floor. “We love Schenectady and it would benefit Schenectady to have a couple more people focusing on these buildings,” Buell said. “We started working in Troy, but now we’re focused on Schenectady.”
MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Developer Jeff Buell is set to acquire 708 Union St. from the city and plans to convert the property into a five-unit apartment building.